Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Once upon a time...

*I lived on a farm.
*I was married.
*I raised chickens and goats.
*I was not stressed out.
*I was not in debt.
*I was not middle-aged.

I had no idea I would end up living in the inner city of the 29th largest US city, divorced with debt, trying to reinvent who I am and who I plan to be, trying like a heart attack to gain back my independence.

Back in my farm days, I read a lot of homesteading blogs. In fact, I kept a homesteading blog. I believed we should be learning how to adapt to changing times, be independent and live on the land and learn how to survive. I had acres to do such things and it was easy to grow giant gardens and can lots of fresh food.

In those early days of blogging, we young moms interacted frequently and I am still friends with many of those beautiful women I met through blogging. One of our comrades was a intellectual by the name of Sharon Astyk. She started something called Independence Days Challenge that we would all participate in weekly (if I recall) on our own blogs. It went something like this (it ended up having several variations):

Plant Something
Harvest Something
Preserve Something
Waste Not
Want Not
Eat the Food
Build Skills
Build Community

The basic premise of the challenge was to share with each other the ways in which we were developing our own sustainability and independence from the "system" in our homes and land. It also included a component as to how we were sharing or teaching these skills to others or growing stronger communities around us. I took the challenge seriously and self-taught myself skills such as canning, mushroom hunting, poultry rearing and many other things. I found ways to use up garden produce and preserve meals for the future, I stockpiled food and supplies for emergencies, I felt prepared and ready for just about anything. I feel like the lessons I learned during my early blogging days are invaluable. All of it was to prepare for something unstable like a flood, a tornado, a deflation of our political system, basically an apocalypse.

What I did not predict back then was that I would end up transferring to a new city to keep my job; buying a house in an underserved urban area and go through a high-conflict, divorce that nearly destroyed my core spirit. I won't go anymore into that hell except to say I could not have known back then that this would be my own personal apocalypse. I did not prepare for it, but I have survived it.

My current situation is that I live in an old house on a small, urban lot...mostly alone these days (well, except for my soul dogs and my kids when it is my 'parenting time'). I rarely preserve food these days, but I do try to small batch can something every year just to keep my skills sharp and I have a small freezer. I have been frugal and am trying to low spend to pay off the divorce debt. I helped start and run a community garden in my neighborhood, so I still garden (until recently because the garden lot is being developed). I still keep a pantry, make bug-out bags and make myself identify edible weeds on my walks through the concrete and litter. I live austerely. However, urban survival differs greatly from rural survival. It's not like we can go outside and shoot a deer or raise a pig (I am a vegetarian so this wouldn't happen anyway for me, but I am sure you get the point!) I have learned some urban foraging skills in the years I have been here now like dumpster diving,  finding edible weed and berries, shopping and couponing for sale items and community and small space gardening.

I have wanted to return to blogging for some time, but just couldn't get myself to dive back in. Tonight I suddenly remembered the Independence Days Challenge and I realized I only participated when I lived on 11 acres in a very different lifestyle. While many skills clearly carried over to my new environment, there are many I have had to learn.

So, I decided if I am having trouble blogging again, I could start again with a modified Independence Day Challenge. What am I doing to make myself stronger, more independent, more sustainable on myself and the city around me? How am I paying off those debts? Am I prepared if SHTF?

So, if nothing else, I will share weekly my own Independence Day Challenge:

Plant Something: Nothing (winter)
Harvest/Forage Something: Oranges, grapefruit, peppers (DD)
Preserve Something: Froze a bag of tomatoes and peppers that froze in my car while out of town
Waste Not/Want Not: See above, took my food on the road for work, bought a case of toothpaste samples (34 of them!) for $3, trying to participate in no spend 2018, made sautéed red potatoes with wrinkling peppers and potatoes that were growing eyes.
Eat the Food: Eating a lot of citrus obtained cheaply or free, drinking water.
Build Skills: Watching lots of YouTube videos on prepping, Dollar Tree survival kit making,
Build Community: I need to work on this again as I have been very reclusive for months.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Call Off the Search Party

I think "Bring back the blogging" has been on my goal list for going on two years now. I am obviously not honoring my goals to their fullest. Anyway, so I am going to try this again. I miss the routine, the writing, the sharing of a blog. Back in 2003 I began blogging for the first time. Things seemed different then and the community of bloggers seemed smaller. Then again, I was of that age when peak interest in reading and writing blogs seems to happen. I am much older now.

So, I guess I'll just catch you all up on what life in West Louisville has been for the past year or so...

  • Currently on a No Spend Year (another on-going goal) as I am working on eliminating the post-divorce debt. 
  • Getting ready to head back to court (fucking divorce that will never be).
  • Working on a Plan B in case my job should falter (not that I am expecting that or anything).
  • Reading tons of library books.
  • I've made some progress on the Shotgun House, but much more to do.
  • Working towards a Vegan diet (been vegetarian for a long time).
  • I am less community active, sadly.
  • Trying not to be depressed about the state of the world.
  • Obsessed currently with Freeganism, seiten, bread baking, zero waste and mushroom foraging.
  • Wishing I could travel more.
Seeing all of this in list form makes me feel boring and lazy. I am hoping that by blogging here again I can rejuvenate that adventurous polymath of a gypsy that lives inside me. She seems to be hiding these days and I could really use her help in shocking me back into productivity. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Confederate Cemetery of Pewee Valley

The 4th of July weekend ended up being pretty much a wash due to heavy rains. On Sunday, we had plans to visit the botanical gardens, but most of it is outside and the rain just kept pouring down. On the way, we detoured to briefly visit a new-to-me Confederate cemetery before calling it a day due to the rain.

The cemetery was founded in 1874 as a community cemetery and the Confederate part of the cemetery was added in 1904. Most of the veterans buried here lived in a Veterans' home before succumbing to their wounds and age.

The tombstones are laid out pretty much like most veterans' plots. Some had a little flag next to their stone. Despite any controversy about the side they fought on during the U.S. Civil War, most of these soldiers would have been the sons of poor farmers and Appalachian mountain folks. In other words, like most wars, those fighting were already far removed from the reason for war in the first place. I thought about my own great-great-great grandfather who joined the KY Confederate army and fought at Gettysburg. Did he feel that connected with the stance of the grey or did he join to escape poverty and help his family? We will never know.

The rest of the cemetery houses typical Victorian resting places. albeit a bit more modest than some I have visited. This angel was one of the more elaborate stones and she overlooks the men resting in the Confederate part of the cemetery. A raindrop on my lens added a touch of mysticism to the photo.

Many of the tombstones have been disrupted by time and nature, but, overall, this cemetery has been well cared for by someone. 

I have loved cemeteries since I was a child for not just the peacefulness and contemplation of our place in history, but for the large trees allowed to grow and prosper in these quiet resting places. Older cemeteries are some of the best arboretums, full of old growth trees and creatures that make these trees their homes.  This is Sassafras and smells wonderful. 

For me, a life-long Taphophile, I go to the cemeteries to find a quiet mind and observe nature. To think about the incredible odds and mercy that allowed me to have my brief moment on Earth; to wonder about the people who lived and lost someone they loved. On this day, I thought about the mother and father that lost their little boy John on August 13, 1872. I thought about how they must have felt when on July 18, 1874 they lost their little one month old baby girl Ideal. I noted that the parents were not buried near their babies and I wonder did they leave Pewee Valley. carrying their belongings and heavy, broken hearts to escape the grief.

It seems really vogue to be a Taphophile* these days and this makes me happy. I love reading blog posts about cemeteries and seeing the lovely photographs. As more people find themselves wandering around the forgotten graveyards of our past, the more the ghosts of those who walked before us will be put to rest in a place that is befitting to house the dead, the more old cemeteries will be saved. I, myself, have been wandering around cemeteries since I was a little girl. I have so many stories of places I've been and cemeteries I discovered along the way. 

*Taphophile: otherwise known as a "cemetery enthusiast", cemetery tourists or "grave hunter" or "graver" describes an individual who has a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rainy Day Favorites

It's raining today! I can finally open the windows and shut down the AC for a spell as we are finally getting a brief respite from the southern heat. I have always loved the tranquility of a rainy day: the smell, the sound and the natural way it slows us down to focus on the minute details of life.

So, in spirit of a laid-back day, here are a few fun things I am bookmarking around the 'web today.


A final note on the last item. I really want to adopt a Sato and will in the near future. I currently have two dogs and will need a respite in work before I can handle another one. Los Satos are basically a "breed" of Puerto Rican street dogs. They are everywhere (along with chickens and horses) on the island. While working there last year, I saw a lovely little girl give birth to 11 puppies. One died the same day and each day when I went to train the staff, I counted and noted another lost life among the litter. I am still haunted by that sweet mama dog and I wish I could have brought her home. These dogs are some sort of pit, lab, terrier and everything else mixed in for good measure. They are sweet and have quiet dispositions. Although some seemed feral, almost every one of them gave me a tail wag and came up to me for a head pat. The dogs were one of my most favorite memories of the island! There are several rescue groups both in PR and on the mainland dedicated to helping these dogs. If you are thinking about adopting a new companion, consider a Sato!

Happy rainy Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Purge

I've spent the first half of my life acquiring all this stuff and 
now I'll spend the second half getting rid of it! 
~Olivia Evans (played by Patricia Arquette)

I love the above quote from the movie Boyhood. The character Olivia, a divorced mother of two, utters this when she is in her mid-to-late forties and I can relate fully. After my last move of 1001 boxes, I realized there were projects I am never going to complete (or even begin for that matter). For example, I am probably, at his point, never going to sew my own dresses or paint a portrait or even make a lamp out of that cool piece of driftwood, so why I am I  hanging on to boxes of vintage sewing patterns and cloth, painting supplies and driftwood? In the past couple of years, I have been feeling weighed down by all these good intentions surrounding me.

Soon after the divorce, I started to purge my belongings-some voluntarily, some by my ex. Clothing that no longer fit my middle-aged body (both in fashion and form) were some of the first to go. It hurt to see all my lovely vintage dresses lined up in a closet and never worn. I decided it was time to send them back to the Land o' Thrift for a new generation. I also sent back all the items I said I would sell on eBay or whatnot. I have already too much to do and my work travels make it hard to actually schedule the sales. And, anything bought specifically for the marital home had to go. Afterwards, I felt much lighter in spirit.

Eventually, I started to purge coffee mugs, dishes, extras of things I rarely used and registered a zero on the joy scale. I realized, as an introvert, I probably would unlikely be hosting cocktail soirees, backyard BBQs or dinner parties and so I whittled down my large collection of vintage dinnerware. I gave away boxes of knick knacks to friends, charity and (unfortunately) the landfill. I took care of maybe 10% of the clutter I had moved in to the Shotgun house.

Right before I left for work in Puerto Rico (April 2015), I read the Konmari book and I found it to be an easy read. I started slowly purging and it was very freeing to let go of things no longer serving their intended purpose to bring me joy. I told myself that when I returned in a few weeks, I would follow the steps precisely and rid myself of more baggage.

However, 3 weeks in PR turned into 6 and, by the time I returned, my life became messy and busy and I lost the Konmari spirit. I also started thrifting again and I never caught back up with my plan.

So, currently, the state of my goal to rid myself of joyless weights has stalled somewhat, but yesterday I did manage to recycle pounds and pounds of old work paperwork. I also threw old magazines into the recycle box. And, I have a large box of items ready to go to the thrift stores.

Next up on my purge list are the books. They fill every nook and cranny of this old house. I think, even if I live another 50 years, I could never read all of this material. For some reason books are the hardest thing for me to give up and I find myself pining for stories I shall never read. However, my hope is by freeing myself from all these material goods will give me a sense of calm and lightness of mind and spirit and maybe I'll find time to read again.

I will never be a minimalist, but I hope to find a happy medium between my love of stuff, love of thrifting and actual need. And this brings me to another great quote from Boyhood that I have been finding to be spot on:

"At some point you're no longer growing up, you're aging. But no one can pinpoint that exact moment." ~Richard Linklater

I have no idea if I am at that point yet (my body seems to think I am past it some days, other days I barely feel my age), but my guess is that after that precise moment, it becomes much easier to purge things.

(Photo taken at an antique store in Pittsburgh, PA)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I was a Neo-Homesteader Lifestyle Blogger

Despite the typos and badly aligned photos and other detritus in my posts, this is not my first blog. In fact, I have had many others over the past decade and a half. The one I kept the longest would be best classified as a "homesteading, coming into adulthood, parenting, lifestyles" sort of blog back when blogs were only somewhat classified. I kept that blog for almost ten years and during the time it was active, I had two farms, two children, got married/marriage fell apart, traveled through my 30s into my 40s, moved back to the city and started a career.

Back in the days of the homesteading life, I met so many other bloggers and some I have remained RL friends with many over the years despite distance and lifestyle changes. Most of our lives changed pathways as we grew older or our children grew older or our needs changed. Some grew with their homesteads, starting businesses or writing books, others gave up the ghost for new adventures  (I am in the latter group).

If you glance at my blog list on this blog, I still have some from my old blog listed despite no updates in 2 or more years. Some had already faded away and the URLs were lost between my old homesteading blog and this one. I am always hopeful they will come back and let us in on how they are dealing with life in general. I still follow many on new social media like Instagram and Facebook. I still feel as if I have known them as neighbors and friends and I hope they are all doing well. I  miss the community we had back then.

Today, while watching the news, I saw the story of a for-profit mommy blogger quitting due to the stress of having to create great money-making posts full of ideas, thoughts, happy children/marriage and "98% bullshit" (her words). Part of me feels empathy for how addicting and competitive blogging can become and part of me wonders why we ever became a competing blogging society full of pretty facades, graphic designer perfect sites and impossible ideals in the first place. They call these bloggers "Influencers", but what they influence, to me, is this strange, fake idealistic bar being set for us and, even though you may try as hard as you can, we will never meet this standard. For one, time is an element that makes this impossible. I am a full-time employee, a single parent, a single woman, borderline hoarder collector, home owner, dog mom, and community advocate and I barely have time to make sure my socks match most days. What I remember from the blogging days of yesterday was the sharing of our lives-the raw honesty (marriage stress, parenting stress, fatigue, mismatched socks), the fumbles and heartbreak (animals dying, crops failing, debt, or weather blues), the celebrations (childbirth, holidays, great crops and baby animals), the juggling of deadlines (work, parenting, farm, seasons, life), and our individual goals and dreams. I have to say I loved those days of few sponsored posts and simple, online journaling.

Now that is not to say I would begrudge someone who makes a little money or products from their blogs or that I don't read these blogs. Some of them are so interesting, pretty and colorful like a bag of jellybeans! I can see how much work they put into creating a beautiful, tailored online 'zine. And, back in the early days of blogging, I was occasionally contacted by companies to try out and write about their products and it made me feel proud. I can't say I wouldn't again say yes to trying out products and blogging about them. However, constantly happy blogs-you know the ones-full of perfect children, perfect décor, perfect meals, perfect figures, perfect photography and perfect projects, well these are really not as interesting to me as ones with a true snapshot of life. I am talking about blogs full of self-growth, real life experiences (including the painful moments), weird interests, change, failed and successful projects, celebrations when something actually does go as planned mixed in with the happy moments and just, well, full of real life moments. These blogs, like a real conversation with a sibling or friend will always hold a place near and dear in my heart and make me feel a little more like I have been a part of a much bigger society.